ADSL users seek failure options for patchy connection

The patchy reliability of Telstra's ADSL service is forcing business users to seek out failover options for their high speed Internet connections.

Recruitment company Leonie Green and Associates is putting a fallback position in place even before it signs up for Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line links.

Its insurance policy takes the form of Stallion Technologies' ePipe high speed Internet access devices which offer several ways of backing up ADSL links.

ADSL's extra speed and "always-on" capabilities make it a clear winner over the dial-up-then-wait modems now being used at Leonie Green's 69 national sites, says IT co-ordinator Coridon Bliss.

But its experience with Big Pond dial-up services in its regional offices is making the company doubly cautious about ADSL.

"We are down several times a week in regional areas where we use Big Pond for simple modem connections," says Bliss.

"We are trying to get away from Big Pond but Telstra is often the only ISP with a point of presence in those areas."

To lock in the advantages of ADSL, Leonie Green is in the process of enabling it at 44 of its 69 sites and intends to eventually extend ADSL coverage to all of them.

It is relying on ePipe to ensure ADSL's reliability problems don't overshadow its benefits of speed, permanently-on connectivity and price.

An ePipe unit about the size of an ordinary modem can plug ADSL connections from two different suppliers into the corporate network environment. Alternatively, it can bond together four separate dial-up Internet connections and deliver their aggregated bandwidth to users as one big pipe.

Falling back to the aggregated modems when ADSL drops out is the solution.

From a cost standpoint, it isn't realistic to have two ADSL providers in order to guard against one dropping out, says Bliss.

A single ADSL service will cost Leonie Green about $150,000 annually compared with $500,000 for a roughly equivalent ISDN service.

Beefing up ADSL's reliability with Stallion's high-speed modem backup plus its cost advantage over ISDN makes the decision easy for Green.

Besides reliability, Stallion's ePipe offers a security umbrella.

"DSL technology is useful but dangerous because it puts you on an open link to the Internet," says Bliss.

"You need a box that gives you some protection and control over those ports.ePipe performs those essential tasks although as an industrial strength firewall "it is no great shakes", he says.

"Once you have set it up and opened the ports you want, you are safer than you otherwise would be."

Leonie Green was introduced to ePipe, which has been on the market about a year, by one of its telecommunications suppliers, iPrimus.

"We wanted something that would integrate with our ADSL and modem links and there weren't that many out there," Bliss said.

Besides connecting in-house networks to the Internet, ePipe can tunnel internal traffic between different corporate branches across the public IP network.

In the past year, Stallion has sold "multiple thousands" of the devices, mainly into the small to medium business market, according to marketing vice president Peter Geale.

Demand hasn't risen radically because of Telstra's recent well-publicised ADSL woes but the issue isn't hurting sales either.

Longer term, Geale believes businesses will start backing up their Internet connections in the same way and for the same reasons they now back up their data.

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